Industrial policy cabinet: recognizing the importance of (manufacturing) industry

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27 July 2022

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More than ever, the importance of Dutch industry is recognized by the cabinet. With the presentation of its new industry policy, the cabinet is finally giving the importance of innovation and digitalization a place in policy in the coming years.

Together with the industry, the government is also starting to draw up an action plan to ensure the availability of sufficient (technical) personnel and to create sufficient (physical and environmental) space for business activity. Koninklijke Metaalunie is surprised by the absence of a clear vision for SMEs in this industry letter, but is moderately positive about a number of other points for attention. At the same time, much still needs to be worked out in concrete terms.

The industrial policy presented contains a number of positive new emphases. The Cabinet wants to pursue an active industrial policy, aimed at the greening and development of (manufacturing) industry. The government is also explicitly committed to its strategic independence. The importance of SMEs for our economy is hardly mentioned.


Labor market: joint approach necessary

The government recognizes that more qualified technical people are needed to achieve the many ambitions in the industry letter. Despite many efforts by the government and the business community, there is an increasing shortage of skilled workers in the Netherlands. Metaalunie hopes that the ministers of EZK, OCW and SZW will cooperate more emphatically to tackle the shortage of technically trained personnel. The Lower House recently adopted a motion by a large majority, calling on the Minister of EZK to assume greater responsibility in this regard.


Attention to production innovation SMEs too limited

What is new is that the government is naming the opportunities of production innovation (process innovation) of SMEs, in relation to increasing labor productivity. Unfortunately, there is little new to read about how the cabinet plans to realize this. The ministry remains stuck in the image that digitalization alone will solve everything. But it fails to recognize that many SMEs still need to take big steps before digitization comes into the picture at all. For example, Metaalunie recently presented a concrete incentive scheme for production innovation for SME manufacturing companies (the SME booster) to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Lower House.

Metaalunie had expected that the Cabinet would have fleshed out incentives in the area of production innovation. In her letter, the minister is only concerned with the commitment to Smart Industry. However, a recent independent evaluation by the Ministry of EZK, as well as a study by Berenschot in which the proposal for the SME booster was launched, has shown that Smart Industry does not appear to be able to sufficiently reach SME manufacturing companies.


Circular economy: targeted approach desired

For now, many words but too few concrete actions to achieve a circular economy. The government has a role in driving this form of economy. To this end, it will present a new National Programme Circular Economy before the end of the year. Metaalunie has been highlighting the opportunities for a circular manufacturing industry for years. Metaalunie hopes that a National Programme for Circular Economy will finally enable it to make real progress. With strong ownership on the part of the government and the associated financial resources (from the Climate and/or Growth Fund, for example).


Balance of housing, nature and business underlined

Never before has a government expressed the importance of guaranteeing (regional) space for business activity in this way. At present, in many municipalities housing construction often takes place at the expense of (expansion) opportunities for manufacturing companies. Later this year, the government will present a National Programme for Employment Locations and a more detailed version of the National Environmental Vision (NOVI). The aim is to guarantee - together with provinces and municipalities - the necessary space for business activity. Metaalunie applauds the government's role in taking this direction;


Joint responsibility

The government presents clear ambitions with the strategic and green industrial policy. However, many issues still need to be worked out in more detail. Metaalunie is therefore calling on the government to seek (even) more cooperation with the business community in working out the plans. In Metaalunie's opinion, the industrial policy must give a more emphatic place to the stimulation of production innovation by SMEs. And together with the business community, the government must address the major shortage of technically trained personnel. For that reason, Metaalunie assumes that it will be actively involved in the elaboration of all ambitions in the coming months;